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from Manchester Evening News 12 February 2002

Penny WisePenny Wise
How a school's super-sleuths traced hero's history from a tragic memento


Story: Deborah Haile
Picture: Chris Gleave

A TEAM of classroom sleuths have unearthed the history behind a tragic memento of the First World War.

When the four teenage schoolmates were handed a bronze plaque — inscribed with the words “Henry Calvert: He died forfreedom and honour” they were determined to find out the story behind it.

Now the GCSE students at St Peter’s RC High School in Openshaw. Manchester have unravelled the mystery and hope to track down the hero’s family to reunite them with the heirloom.

The young detectives have been building up a profileof the Pte Calvert named on the plaque — a tributeknown as a “dead man’s penny” and handed to relatives of those killed in action.

The relic was given to them by their teacher, Simon Dever who stumbled across it in a junk shop 10 years ago.

After hours on the Internet and in Manchester’s Central Reference Library, the team found out all about the soldier and even tracked down a picture.

Pupil Adam Carter, 15, from Burnage, who started the research the day he first saw the plaque, said: “The plaque was a bit like an over-sized 2p piece and I wanted to find out more about it — I thought it would be a challenge.

Private Calvert“I searched the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Internet to narrow it down. We found an address, but it didn’t exist anymore, so we had to look at an A-Z from 1900 to find out which area he was from. Then we looked through newspapers from 1917 and found pictures of him.” [see left]

In unravelling the mystery, the youngsters have already discovered that Henry - known as Harry — lived in Openshaw and had six brothers, three of whom died during the war.

Henry, who was 35 when he died, was married to Elizabeth — who remarried later — and had four chil&en. He signed up in the Loyal North Lancashires in 1914, served in South Africa and had been in France two years when he was killed in action.

Pupil Nadya Talbot, 14, from Longsight, said “I think this man was really brave for going to war and we want his descendants to be proud that they had someone so brave in the family.”

Adam said: “You would think the plaque would be a family treasure to be kept on the mantelpiece.”

The students have written to more than 10 Calvert families in Greater Manchester to see if they are related, but so far without success.

Deputy head Mr Dever, who teaches history, is delighted the plaque has proved so successful in class.

“I can’t even remember where I bought it,” he said, “and I had just left it in a cupboard. When the children got hold of it, they wanted to investigate, so I turned it over to them.”

Are you a relative of Pte Calvert? Contact the MEN newsdesk on 0161-211-2323
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Wednesday 22 February 2006